Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Who stole Rebecca's earrings?

I’m kinda in a CHEERS mood.

As a writer you like to think that when you write a role it so specific that only a certain number of people could play it. Well, that’s not always the case.

In the first year of CHEERS we had a role in an episode for a mysterious character who comes into the bar posing as a spy. We first offered the role to Richard Burton. Unbelievably, he passed. Then it was offered to Jack Elam (the guy with the lazy eye who played the villain in a thousand western). Elam passed and we ended up with Ellis Rabb, a very flamboyant theatrical actor who built his career on playing fops. (I think if he had passed our next choice was Billy Barty)

Several seasons later we wrote an episode where Sam brings Larry Bird back to the bar and it appears that he steals Rebecca’s hundred thousand dollar earrings. When Bird decided to pass we went to the next logical choice, Admiral William J. Crowe Jr., the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Side trip: He turned out to be a great guy. And yes, he was always trailed by an aide with a box handcuffed to his wrist – putting the Admiral in direct satellite communication with the President, day or night. Every twenty minutes this aide had to unlock the box and place a test call. I badgered him into letting me watch this once. He opened the box. I was expecting this real high tech Star Wars equipment. It looked like used Radio Shack shit, with a black phone worthy of Maxwell Smart.

Admiral Crowe did every joke we wrote for him…except one, presented here for the first time.

He’s sitting at the bar with Norm and Cliff. Norm says, “So you got the black box, huh?” Admiral: “That’s right.” Cliff: “And you can make one call and nuclear missiles are in the air on their way to Russia?” Admiral: “Yes, sir.” Norm then slaps a bill on the counter and says, “Fifty bucks says you can’t.”

I’m only sorry Larry Bird didn’t take the role. I’m sure he would have said it.


Anonymous said...

Was it NBC pushing you folks into bringing in "special guest" celebrities? Crowe was fine, but how much Nielson star-power does he have?

From the viewpoint of the storyline, bringing in Celtics, or a Tip O'Neill or the mayor of Boston makes sense as they are "local" celebs in Boston, but, "gee, Larry Bird turned us down, so let's get William Crowe"?

Anonymous said...

I thought the couple of shows where Kevin McHale was brought in were great -- and the guy turned out to be halfway decent as an actor.

I always remember the ill-feeling Woody had against Larry Bird because Woody came from Hanover, IN (I think it was) and Larry Bird was from French Lick. It would have been great to see what kind of conflict -- and comedy -- might have been produced when the two of them had to face up to each other for some reason.

Anonymous said...

Now that I think about it, didn't Larry Bird actually DO a cameo at some point in the series? I seem to remember both he and Woody tossing lines about how people from the other's home town were considered hayseeds. I don't think any really strong story line was created that involved the two of them directly, however.

Anonymous said...

I worked with Admiral, now Ambassador Crowe, when he was Ambassador to our Embassy in London. A lovely, down to earth gentleman with a great sense of humor. He fondly remembered his stint on Cheers and I fondly remember him as the best Ambassador I ever worked with.

Julie O'Hora said...

Well, that sucks. It was a great joke.

Love your stories, Ken. The "Smart box" details made me snort.

Anonymous said...

I love any and all Cheers stories. Thanks, Ken. Please keep 'em coming.

Billy Barty??? The pearl is in the river, indeed.

Anonymous said...

My memory has finally come back. (Lunch and a couple of beers always helps.) Larry Bird never did an episode. What I remember now was Kevin McHale telling the Cheers regulars what Larry Bird always told the rest of the Celtics about people from Hanover...

(Sorry to use up so much of your space, Ken -- you can go back to concentrating on your musical now)

I rmember the Admiral Crowe episode too, and thought the guy had a temendous sense of humor about doing something like that.

I'm done now...

Anonymous said...

My favorite Cheers cameo had to be John Cleese. Frasier brings his friend(Cleese)into the bar and introduces him to Woody.

I remember the scene,I don't rememeber the dialogue verbatim.

but went something this..

Frasier: Woody, I like to introduce you to Professor Blank, he's a Rhodes Scholar..

Woody: Ya don't say, maybe you can tell me how they fill those potholes so darned quickly.

Bobbie (Sunny) Cole said...

I've been enjoying the "Cheers" posts - have nothing to offer other than keep 'em comin', puhleeze.

Dante Kleinberg said...

I don't know what season that was, but if Rebecca was the lead female, it must've been long enough in that Cheers was a hit show, and Larry Bird turned it down? What was he thinking?

Great stories, the more the better.